Tag Archives: critique group

Still on break

In some ways, I don’t know what to do with myself, but I’m falling into the routine a little more each weekend. I have two of three critiques back for the ending of The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. Once the last one arrives I’ll address those.

After the critiques, it will be time to read HMS Lanternfish. I haven’t looked at it for a month, so there are bound to be things to repair. I can also do my word searches for corrections that I always seem to need.

After Lorelei the Muse visited, my head is full of ideas, but they aren’t immediately helpful. I’m really excited about The Hat books five and six. However, it’s book four I need to storyboard properly. I know that story, but it needs more structure than the others. It’s going to involve an event that will shape the future of these stories. It needs to have an emotional tug to it. That might sound funny for a series that’s dedicated to dark and snarky humor, but it works within the framework I’ve established.

I also added some fun ideas to a couple of storyboards for some stand alone novels I want to write. There is also an outer space related story bouncing around in my head, but it hasn’t earned a storyboard yet. Muses are great, but more pertinent help would have been better.

If nothing else, once I figure out the issues with my next two books, Lanternfish and Hat #4, I will be ready to scream along on future tales.

In other news, I worked on one of my cowboy hats a bit. Long term readers might remember when Old What’s Her Face and I went to Jackson Hole. There used to be a wonderful hat shop there, and I bought a nice beaver hat. I posted about cutting the brim down, steaming & shaping the brim and crown. Then I used a stitch puller to remove the hatband.

After that, I had my brother make me a copper hatband. This has worked well for years, and it’s my go-to outdoors hat. The band is held on by friction, but it will come off when doing some hat related chores, like fanning the campfire to get it going.

Today, I took some tin snips and some copper pipe and made a couple of staples. It took some effort to get them placed and puncture the hat body, but I don’t think my hatband will be coming off any time soon. Oddly enough, closing the stables was the hardest part. Not a lot of room to swing a hammer inside the crown of a hat.

I’m sure the staple will age and patina to catch up with the rest of the copper eventually.

I also broke down and ordered a new hat. I doubt the cowboy hat will be retired, but I wanted a campaign hat. This will be the third one I’ve owned over the years. The first one was cheap wool, and wore out back in my survey days. I allowed a bar tender to hang it on the wall in a tiny little place called Midas, Nevada. (Hope it’s still there.) The second one got borrowed by one of my son’s friends when they were in high school. They were a bunch of druggies, and once he gave it back I threw it away. Lice happen and I wasn’t about to take a chance.

This campaign hat is slouch style, and made of much better rabbit fur. It will come with the cavalry style acorn band, but I got the officer’s version with gold and black since it was an option. (I already have a hat with gold acorns.)

Years ago, in my part of the world, cowboy hats were everywhere. I’d kind of like to pick up a decent used one to experiment on. I can’t believe how difficult and expensive that process has become. I used to see such things at yard sales, but no more. I’ve learned how to sterilize and clean them up, and have a couple of experiments I’d like to try.

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It’s a staycation

One of the things I enjoy is writing. It makes sense that I would do some of it for relaxation. I worked on a lot of projects, but none of them involve drafting new material.

Yesterday I bought a ladder. Exciting, right? I have a nice six-footer, but have to stand on the top to change the lightbulbs in the living room. (You know that label that says never do this? I’ve been that guy.) Ten years ago that was fine, and I’ve been doing it all this time. Pushing sixty, I’m just not willing to do that any longer. (Plus 2020 doesn’t feel like the year to gamble.) I bought a nice eight-footer, and it’s a simple matter to change the bulbs without risking life and limb.

I collected all my critiques for Mrs. Molony and made changes based upon that input. After that, I sent out the next chapter. There isn’t much left to send out, and after that I’m sure my critique group will appreciate the break.

The short story got to the point where I’m changing things, then changing them back. That’s usually a sign that it’s time to set it free. I emailed it in to the publisher.

I’ll be dealing with Mrs. Molony, either going out or coming back, as it happens. I won’t touch Lanternfish until I get Mrs. Molony to that point.

It’s been months since I looked at the first chapters of Lanternfish, so I could start reading it. I’d love to get it out in a couple of weeks, so I don’t have to kill myself to get Mrs. Molony out for Halloween. Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Halloween season is kind of a stick-pin, so the sooner the better for Lanternfish.

I also committed to hosting a friend. She sent me all the pieces, and I need to assemble it. That will probably be top priority tomorrow. I might even try some of it at the Toyota dealership. I have to take my truck for service early, but they have WiFi.

I also picked up a book I started months ago and read a chapter. Something is lost by doing it that way, but I admit to having a sneak peek at it before it was published. More reading is on my list during my break.

I don’t have to return to work until Monday, so other things on my list could happen. I need to start a storyboard for the final Lanternfish book. The next book about Lizzie and the hat could benefit from one, too.

Honestly, I still love my stand-alone titles, and I have I couple of nearly complete boards for two. I’m going to have to park on those because I’ve committed to series work for now. Halloween will be a stick-pin for one, and I want to conclude Lanternfish in 2021 as well.

I think I can accomplish more before I have to return to the office. Eventually, I’ll be down to storyboards and reading. That’s going to be nice, and will clear some room to get Lanternfish out the door.

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Today’s Office

It was supposed to be a lovely post. A photo of my campsite in the ponderosa pines with an undergrowth of blueberry bushes. Then there was the mule deer doe that hangs around the edges of the campground. However, I’m down to a cellular hotspot with only two bars of service. I spent two hours trying to get the photos included, but no bueno. In fact, I have my doubts whether this text only post will upload, so here goes nothing.

It was hot yesterday. Somewhere in the nineties. This is tough on bulldogs, but we have power here, so the AC helped a bunch. They were restless most of the night. Otto decided to get up somewhere between 4:30 and 5:00 this morning. It’s either listen to him pace and whine with no hope of going back to sleep, or get up. My MO is to get up. When it’s time for breakfast, it’s time for breakfast.

Frankie rarely eats when we go out like this. Otto was content to clean his bowl, then hers. I picked it up before he got a double breakfast. Old What’s Her Face got to sleep in a little, then she gave them some hamburger and an egg, so Frankie isn’t starving.

I plopped down under the awning while it was still dark. The first order of business was to deal with the final critiques for Lanternfish. I don’t need wifi for that, and it’s all resident on my iPad. It can save to the cloud when I get home. Good suggestions, and it’s in the fermenter for a couple of weeks. Then I have to read it from start to finish, because there are always things that get missed.

Next order of business was to send out a chapter for Mrs. Molony. For some reason, while slow, that went off without a problem.

I’m still going to add a couple of paragraphs to this story. They aren’t needed, but there is a minor theme that could be addressed. I’ll let my critique group decide when they see the final chapter.

That left me the short story with Jason Fogg. It’s time for it to come out of the fermenter and get the last reading. Only I found two boneheaded errors. I fixed those, then put it back in the fermenter. I’m on vacation all week, so during the staycation part, I’ll make sure it gets submitted.

We took a drive today and saw quite a few deer. I only took the one picture and it didn’t upload anyway. I hoped for an eagle here on the lakeshore, but he never showed up.

There are still quite a few mushrooms in the darker parts of the forest. I hoped to do a snoop for a good one to add to my breakfast, but the mosquitos were pretty bad. I’d sprayed myself with repellent, but my wife was having none of it.

I did see one I’ve never seen before called Dead Man’s Fingers. It was a pitiful example, and looked more like a bunch of thin black spikes. I have a hunch it wasn’t mature yet. This thing looks like zombie fingers poking from the earth if you find a good one. I fully intended to look for one, because I wanted a photo. But Old What’s Her Face insisted we leave.

Tonight we dined on grilled lobster tails and some kabob vegetables. I’m washing it down with a bottle of stout right now. We’re having a good time, but the post would look better with pictures.

 

Update: The guy camped across the street from us is a piece of work. He is there with a girl of about thirteen and a son at about four, if I had to guess. Then grandma is with them. He’s one of those guys who is on his phone all the time. He tries to sound like a big deal, and has that wheeler-dealer mentality. He called his boss and is going to miss work on Monday. I couldn’t help but overhear. Something about the ex-wife and how he had to hire a babysitter one night because he had some function to attend. Then he was contacted by Central District Health. There is a trail of Covid-19 exposure going through the alleged babysitter. He said he has to take Monday off to get his entire family tested, but none of them are showing any symptoms.

I’m not totally freaked out, and they are about fifty feet from us. He’s been down at the dock fishing with the post-toddler. The dock is swarming with people. He’s also been in the neighboring camp telling them about his fishing prowess. Not one mask in sight.

If I’m not mistaken, the rules are to stay home until you get the all-clear. Not to go camping and mingle with other people, because you might not have Covid. The teen had the little one and was pointing into our camp. “Look at the puppies.”

No. Don’t look at the fucking puppies and keep on your side of the god damned street.

He’s a tent camper, too, so that means they’ll all be using the restroom facilities.

Between you and me, I think the guy was lying to his boss. He’s that kind of bullshitter. I’m not willing to take that chance, and if Otto misses out on making one friend he’ll get over it. We have social distancing on our side, and we’re outdoors to boot. I’m not letting any of them near my stuff, or allowing them to pet the dogs.

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Chipping away at things

So far, I managed to make edits to a chapter of Lanternfish. This is the one my critique partners had recently. Good suggestions this time, and they improved the story quite a bit.

I got the next chapter ready for submission, then sent it off. They only have about a half-chapter left after that. I may add my back material and let them look at it, too.

The next Hat story has been languishing while I finished Lanternfish. I decided to read every single word of it this morning. Never added any new words, but it’s still progress. When I’m ready to write next time, I’ll be up to date.

It rained like crazy this morning. We have ducks swimming above the lawn in the park next door. That’s a lot of water. It’s also giving my Asian Pear tree fits. Fire blight spreads this way, and it has a touch of it. It kills whole trees, but this variety is pretty resistant.

Between projects, I decided to monkey with one of my old cowboy hats. This started life as a custom beaver blend hat. I was always disappointed in it, because it wasn’t quite what I expected. The crown was about 30 degrees crooked, and I had to reshape that myself. It was supposed to be a nice light brown, but arrived in a pumpkin color.

I’ve turned this hat into my lab rat over the years. Recently, I’ve been surfing the web looking for ways to artificially weather hats. They just seem to look better after they break in a little. Out comes my lab rat hat for a bit of experimentation.

I used the tea kettle to steam the crap out of the brim, then used an old round extension cord as a mold to put a kettle roll around it. It looks pretty darned good.

For my next amazing stunt, I used thick instant coffee in a spray bottle to darken it up. This one didn’t work as well as the Internet sold it. It knocked the pumpkin color out, and it’s kind of a buckskin now. (Not horrible) My question is whether it will remain color-fast. Meaning when it rains am I going to have cold coffee running down my neck?

I also spent a couple of bucks on something called fullers earth. This can be used to add some stains for artificial wear and tear. I haven’t tried this, yet. I’ll do it in conjunction with some salt water and olive oil so the colored earth will stick. My attempt will involve lightly using a soda straw to blow the color on in some key places, like the pinch point of the crown. Maybe where I normally handle the brim, etc.

Fiddling around with hats probably doesn’t sound as much fun as writing about root monsters and pirates, but it gives me something to do. Who knows, maybe this hat will be something worth wearing on a camping trip one day.

I still need to go through my short story one more time, but I have a few weeks yet. If there’s any time after I call my parents tomorrow, I will probably tackle a fresh new chapter of the next Hat story.

Hope all of you are having good weekends whatever you’re up to.

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The weekend warrior

I work during the week, so I have to get my word count on my days off. I’m blessed to have a flex schedule that provides me with an extra day off each week, but it moves around. Sometimes my word counts seem high when I write about them, but if you spread it over a whole week they aren’t any more extraordinary than anyone else.

Today was a slow start for me. I slept in, spent some time for social media, and wasn’t generally feeling it. I also wanted to enjoy my coffee and Old What’s Her Face is off today. I decided to wait until she took the dogs for her coffee, then play ball with them.

It was about 9:00 before I got started. This is the middle volume of a trilogy, so my ending needs to have a complete disaster, while preserving that glimmer of hope they can deal with in the final volume. Yeah, it’s kind of formulaic and I own that. If it works, it works.

My writing turned out to be about a chapter and a half of solid action, and I slightly “told” small bits of it to keep the burner on high for the whole thing. If you think about a city being invaded by an enemy, you need to skip some of the running and hiding and stay with the action. I also included multiple points of view, because it’s a geographically large event.

Even after all that, I still haven’t finished the story. I need to write what is called a sequel to deal with all the things that happened. Staci Troilo is writing an excellent series about that process over at Story Empire.

The crew is in another new location right now. A bit of world building fits in with the flavor of the story. If I’m good, I’ll have one of those inspirational speeches that can lead us into the final volume. I know what remains to include in the story, and where it winds up, but I’m still trying to get there. I’m relatively certain I’ll finish it before I go back to work on Tuesday.

My short story critiques are all back, so I have to deal with those, too. This story needs some work, but it exists and that’s the hard part. Tweaks and repairs aren’t so difficult, and it is a short story.

I’m pretty happy with this Lanternfish tale, but Sundays are hard to get much done. I have other things I regularly do on Sundays. That might be the best day to deal with my short story. Monday will provide a great opportunity to wrap up HMS Lanternfish.

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A long weekend

I took Friday as a vacation day, and Monday was my flex day. This was just what I needed, to be honest. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t productive, but I didn’t hit it full speed either.

Start with Friday. Old What’s Her Face had to work, so this was my writing day. I tried to hit it hard, because I didn’t expect a better opportunity. I wound up adding 4100 new words to Lanternfish.

I’ve been setting the stage for some of this for a few chapters now. I started to reveal the con job my crew is going to have to pull once they arrive in the war zone. I also have some seeds that haven’t sprouted yet and look forward to those chapters.

Then I sent Lanternfish into a hot welcome in the form of two Hollish warships. With their little fleet, only Lanternfish is capable of defending herself, unless there is an even older battle tactic that might still have some life in it.

I also finally introduced my ghost into the story. This is an old Japanese legend, and honestly, Japanese ghosts are scary as hell. This involves haunted items. I did a ton of research on them, then made my own up to fit the framework. The result was bloody and gruesome, and I’m well pleased with it.

A root monster earned a name (kind of), and they made a mistake involving a golden phallus. Have to keep some of the humor going here.

My wife was off Saturday and Sunday. We’re doing our best to stay home, and did small things around the house. I pruned my Asian pear a bit, and have more to go. I continued with thinning its fruit. I should have sprayed it for coddling moth, but haven’t done that yet.

We turned on Disney+ and watched the new Star Wars movie. We went to it in the theater, but now that it’s that simple we decided to watch it again.

I dabbled with other writing projects, adding a few words to my short story, and a few more to Lanternfish. I’m debating parking Lizzie and the Hat now, until one of those gets finished. This is always a possibility, and it feels like time.

I had one goal for today, and that was to send a chapter of Lanternfish to my critique group. My iPad seems to have a haunting of its own today. When I selected the chapter, it froze up and wouldn’t let me do anything. I closed the app, and that will sometimes break the strangle hold. Not this time. It decided to arbitrarily delete the last two chapters I’d written.

Rather than throwing the stupid thing against the wall. I put it down and made a pot of coffee. About once a year, Old What’s Her Face buys me a can of chickory as a treat, and I used it. This gave me time to think. Apple just had an update and that could be part of my problem. Doesn’t solve anything, but it came to me in the kitchen.

Pages gives me options upon selection of a part of my work, copy/cut/ delete. Maybe it cut the section and was still on the clipboard. I could simply paste it back… Big nope. It had been deleted.

As a last feeble effort I tried the undo button. It restored everything that I’d lost, and I was able to copy and paste it for my critique group. It’s a miracle that I didn’t reboot the whole thing, which would have cleared the undo button.

Today was a possible writing day, too. I continued, but after my adventure, didn’t accomplish much. If you add on the dabbling with the short story and today, my whole weekend probably landed at about 5000 words. Good progress any way you slice it.

Tomorrow is working from home, and Wednesday I get my turn in the office. I have enough work for one day, but really need to go in for more files and such.

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Busy, but productive

I started my week off with a visit to Mae Clair’s blog. I ended it with a stop by John Howell’s place. These were both stops to promote Grinders. A couple per week is much easier to manage than the dozen or so I’ve done in the past. I still intend to put out a decent number of them, but I’m going to spread them out a bit more.

Lisa Burton went back on the air somewhere in the middle to host Charles Yallowitz. He also has a new book out, so if you haven’t stopped by Lisa Burton Radio, you probably should.

All of these fine people loaned me their space, or have agreed to soon. I would appreciate it if you’d stop by their places and check them out. Maybe you’ll find a cool new blogger to follow. They’re all accomplished authors, so you might find some great reading there, too.

Today, I focused on producing more tour posts for Grinders, but at two per week it was much less stressful. I’m making every post unique, and that allows me to reblog them without sounding like a broken record. More like a wounded record, maybe.

I also made a new pinned tweet. I’m a big believer in the pinned tweet, and regularly share those of my friends and supporters. That’s why I’m embarrassed to admit that I forgot to make one for Serang. Maybe if I hit the Summer doldrums I can toss one out for that story. It isn’t like I don’t have some great artwork to add to it. I’m not much of an artist, but I can cobble together something presentable.

I also worked through critiques for two different projects. My side project was pretty easy, but Lanternfish took some effort. My group helped me make this section so much better, and I owe them a huge debt. Both projects are ready for new words, and I may add some tomorrow. I have some fun research that I need to shoehorn into Lanternfish somehow.

Today I cleared my decks. No idea where tomorrow will lead me, and I don’t really have a plan for it. I’ll check in with all my hosted posts and might even manage some new words. Hope all of you have a great weekend ahead of you.

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Pretty regular day

We managed a small date night last night. It amounted to dinner at the Outback, followed by stopping at the pet store to pick up dog food. Nothing too fancy, but we rented Zombieland Double Tap when we got home. Both of us really enjoyed it.

I started my day by calling my parents. Our conversations were mostly political, but that’s not appropriate for this site. It was just nice to talk to both of them for a while.

Old What’s Her Face and I had a nice breakfast, then I worked on a couple of smaller projects. I don’t have either project quite ready for a critique submission, but I sent them both out anyway. My partners might appreciate some shorter submissions for a change.

Part of this decision is the fact that I have a three day weekend coming up. That would give me some time to address the issues they found and move one of the projects ahead. The Lanternfish is my main project, and is slightly over 60,000 words so far. My side project finally broke 10,000 words. Things are perking along, even though I didn’t work on them this weekend.

My first tour post is scheduled for tomorrow. This one supports the new book, Grinders. I’ll be sharing it, and responding to comments on my host’s site. I also sent my list on to the next potential host. I hope I can write something for him during the weeknights.

Aside from that, I paid the bills and did regular stuff that everyone else has to do. None of it’s too sexy, but it all counts. Touring the new book should gather some new sales, and that’s why we do it.

Next weekend, I should be able to add some words to the Lanternfish project. Fingers crossed for that.

Hope all of you had a great weekend.

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Saturday efforts

Today, I sent out the first submission of my side project. This one involves Lizzie and the hat in their third adventure. They’re chasing vampires this time in a rodeo/country music type environment. I know I’ve kind of avoided vampires, but believe I can put a different spin on it, and still keep the humor the characters have become known for. I’m chewing my nails to find out what my critique group thinks of it all.

I also sent out the manuscript of Grinders to my formatter. She sent me an invoice, but I’m loath to pay it until tomorrow. She’s already completed the finished product, but I can’t publish until I have my Lisa Burton promotional posters. What would one of my releases be without Lisa?

Speaking of Grinders, several bloggers offered to host a cover reveal for me. I sent all those out, and several have posted already. I’m not reblogging these because they’re all the same. If you find one online somewhere, I would appreciate a tweet or Facebook post. I’m getting some nice comments on these, so I have high hopes about the eventual publication.

I wanted to get something out for Chinese New Year, and the cover reveal is that attempt. I’m a few weeks away from publication.

I’ve been working on a critique for a friend, and am about half-way through the submission. I’ll probably finish it tomorrow. Our rules are to send the feedback to the entire group, and it’s a great way to raise my own game. Sometimes we don’t know everything and a bit of effort like this helps me improve my own fiction.

Then I scheduled my next Story Empire post. This one is a continuation of the Character Archetypes; the Mentor. I hope it will be well received.

I’m off until Tuesday, so I have high hopes for Monday. I don’t quite have enough to send out the next section of Lanternfish, but could have by Monday night. The crew left the magical floating island of Bungo Bungo and are headed for Giapon. This is a stand-in for Japan in my story. This is the country that Serang’s Emperor has been at war with for decades. Maybe I can build some tension with placing her in this environment.

Sunday is the day I call my parents, and spend some time with my family. There are some Sundays when I can read or maybe write a paragraph or two, but I don’t usually push it on Sundays.

Old What’s Her Face and I had a lovely date night at one of our favorite places, Kahoots. They have a great selection on tap right now, so I had a Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout, a nice Scotch Ale, and a Expresso Stout. Aside from that, the prime rib was outstanding.

With all that wonderful beer, that’s why I’ll pay my invoice tomorrow. I’m going to watch an old movie tonight and just chill. Hope you’re all having a good weekend in whatever you’re doing.

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Did a lot, but…

Today was my flex day and I had a pretty good list of projects. This was the list:

  • Editing on Serang
  • Work up three small critique sections
  • Send out the shtick for a new Lisa Burton Radio show
  • Read more of a fantastic novel

I got a lot done, but never got all the way to reading.

I started with the interview shtick and got it out the door. This author is looking for a mid July date so I have plenty of time to schedule and get it assembled once it’s in my hands.

The critiques are important to me. When you’re in a crit group, those people are there for you and you have to be there for them. I scratched this off the list.

When it came to Serang, I changed a few minor wordings, and one sentence that made no reasonable sense at all. Funny how those things still manage to slip through at this late hour. I never got all the way through the MS, so this one remains on my weekend list.

When it comes to the weekend, my slate is pretty clear. I can get all the way through Serang, then dedicate my time to reading. I don’t have to start on The Viral Blues edits yet, so if I get that far it’s a bonus.

I also have my next Expansion Pack roughed out for Story Empire. I’m not up again for a while, so I have time to spiff it up. I like to schedule them one ahead, so I might even deal with that in the evenings. Blogging doesn’t quite seem to demand the concentration the other projects do.

The expansion packs are doing okay, but I’d like to see them do better. These are the helpful ideas I have right now, so I’m not moving on until that well dries up.

All told, it was a productive day. I’d like to have done more, but really can’t complain. Back to the office tomorrow.

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